He would write a poem.
I’ve been so wrapped up in the early years, writing about the year that we met, so wrapped up that I’ve been overlooking the most recent years of his being alive.
He would write a poem; he would become an expert on poets, on poetry. On airplanes—long rides, like to Europe—he would take along a volume or two of poetry, lost in the words. I’d glance across the aisle at him (we always booked seats across the aisle) and see him lost in the pages, the words, sometimes his lips moving with his focus.
The bookcase I referred to as “his” became laden with little volumes of anthologies or particular poets, as he discovered them in bookstores. Poetry subscriptions. He would sit in his chair, the brown leather one I repaired with brown plastic tape (not even noticeable!), a Walgreen’s notebook or legal pad propped on his lap, the end of the pen circling his lips, as he sought for words.
He asked what thesaurus I thought was good and I showed him my old beat-up paperback. Impressed, he ordered the newest hardback version, Soule’s Dictionary of English Synonyms, and studied it. He signed up for a course at City College, then another, and a third, on writing poetry. The file cabinet in his room became filled with files labeled with the title of a poem, its drafts and incarnations. He took a course with OLLI – San Francisco State—and had three poems published, then he invested in Kim Addonizio’s classes online. These occupied him all day because he would study her lessons, work hard at capturing the assignment, have to type his scrawling notes into the computer then download the others’ poems, the ones he was responsible for reviewing. These he would prop up on his lap and read assiduously, making comments, then have to type all of that—peck by peck—into the computer. He engaged in those courses several times over his last years.
Did I know, the day I met him in that bar, that he would write poems? I, who claim to be a writer of sorts, am writing about our meeting that day so many years ago. It’s all very vivid in my head, our beginning. Why is that? The last twenty years seem a blur, but there it is, the scene when we met.
I found a poem recently in a greeting card he’d given me. He would buy a card based on its art, blank inside, and compose something. His writing was large, slanted, helter-skelter, his thinking precise. This poem was for my 69th birthday. Who would think that that was a birthday to be commemorated? The poem alluded to a love that started in the Portland bar. We have both immortalized the event.
When he died two years ago – oh, over two and a half years ago, now, really—I gathered some of his poems, tried to organize them with the help of a friend—and had them published in little booklets. My friend designed the formats. I gave away the books of poems, to his sons, to my own son, now also dead. My daughter, who had already died, would have loved the book, but she never knew. She never knew he would write poems.
The file drawer remains, the files of the poems still there. I will have to throw it all away, or someone will. There is no one left beyond me now, no survivors. His sons in distant states , not poets, not readers of poetry at all, might be the ones to come across all the files, the poetry. I gave most of his books – twelve bags full – to a bookstore, a real gift of all those esoteric books of poets. Many remain. The notebooks remain. I remain.
With all his poems.
By Evalyn Baron
On July 2, 2022
J- this touched my heart so deeply. I’m enjoying your writing and am glad to connect with you through it. Xx Ev